First things first. The headline finding is that over six times as many Party members are opposed to getting involved in Iraq at all than support sending in ground troops. Indeed, a mere five per cent of these respondents to our latest survey back the latter move. At first glance, the poll result is a simple victory for the anti-interventionists (among whom I broadly count myself).
It does indeed suggest that there are very strict limits to how much involvement Party members are prepared to support. But one of the merits of a multiple choice survey is that it better reflects than a Yes/No one the fact that there are degrees of intervention. The choice isn’t necessarily between sending in troops and keeping out altogether.
For example, the Government could offer advice to the Iraqi Government and military. Over half the respondents want it to do so. We could allow the Americans to use British bases for the purposes of intervention. Again, over half of those who answered the survey support that option. (Even so, that almost 50 per cent of them don’t come out for the Americans or others doing so is worth noting.)
Over a third back training the Iraqi military. Over a quarter support attacking ISIS with drones and cruise missiles. Over a fifth would send British pilots into attack to carry out air strikes. Most of those who don’t support these options will oppose them, but there will be a certain proportion of don’t knows. Roughly a quarter favour co-operating with Iran, which again is worth noting.
As I say, polls can try to find yes-and-no answers, or they can look for a range of views. We’ve taken the latter course, and the results indeed uncover such a range: that only two options gain over 50 per cent support suggests strongly that most Party members, like most other voters, feel under-informed about Iraq and wary of taking a position: after all, over two thirds don’t back not getting involved.
But I end where I started. There are very strict limits to how much involvement Party members are prepared to support. Indeed, I end with a striking finding: two in five Tory members believe that we should accept the division of Iraq into three states. (Nadhim Zahawi is fascinating on the same subject on this site today.) Take that, Sykes-Picot!
There were over 800 party member responses to the survey. These are tested against the responses of a control panel supplied by YouGov.